30 November, 2012

Care and Feeding for Your Elkhide

By Igor

Our Elkhide is very durable given the right diet and care. I wouldn't give little Stella soda pop and beef jerky. Like Stella, elkhide deserves good nutrition and care.

Here's the kit for keeping elk happy:
  • VO Saddle Care
  • Bag from a Grand Cru item (126mm hub in my case. Similar soft cloth will work, not paper towels.)
  • Riding gloves

In order to keep the covers smooth and supple, it requires oils.  Our saddle care is perfect. Apply generously onto the cloth and work into the cover, concentrating on where you keep your hands most. Don't forget about the nooks and crannies. 

As an experiment, I put two pieces of elkhide on my top tube as protectors, and did not feed them properly. The piece on the left was treated once and is already looking better; it just needs more time and treatment. 

The key to elkhide longevity is cycling gloves.  Not only do they protect your hand muscles from fatigue and pain, they also keeps your covers looking good by not stripping oils. 

What other uses does your new VO Saddle Care have (aside from treating your saddle)? You can use it on your leather boots, mudflaps (for the upcoming salty snowy season), and briefcases. 

Sidenote: Our saddles come with a micro-thin waterproof layer from the factory to protect the hide in transit.  Don't apply saddle care until after the first couple weeks of riding.

Here at VO World Headquarters, we've always been into the idea of patina. It's a beautiful thing. The combination of form, function, and personality meshes together so well. This type of bar cover is a perfect example. What are some other good examples of patina in the cycling world?

27 November, 2012

Bertin C37 Mixte, High Performance in Comfort

By Igor

Back in the day there were a few companies that produced Mixte style frames that used the same frame materials and components as high end racing bikes. On those select bikes, it wasn't uncommon to see Reynolds 531 or Columbus SL tubing with Nuovo Record Components on a get-around-town bike. This is what makes this bike I picked up for Adrian as a winter project that much cooler. 

Andre Bertin was an accomplished French racer in the 30’s and 40’s, before becoming a team manager and entrepreneur until the 90’s. You can read a detailed biography on Bertin Classic Cycles.

The Bertin C37 was produced in the 70s to compete with the Peugeot PX10 and other similar bikes of the bike boom era.  The frame is Reynolds 531 and features a Campagnolo Record group with the exception of the brakes, which are Mafac centerpulls. Wheels are Record hubs laced to Milremo tubular rims.

This bike is one of particular interest. It features a high-end racing group but is also in a Mixte configuration with chrome stays and fork blades. After doing much searching on the web, I emailed Jim, owner of the Bertin Cycles weblog, with pictures and any info I could grab off the frame. Jim said that he had never seen this model, not even in a catalogue, but confirmed it was a C37 and had period correct components and hardware.

One of the coolest features of the bike is the French Phillipe pantographed cast stem with rear cutout.

In addition to the uniqueness of the frame, the bike sports the Hans Ohrt of Beverly Hills, CA retail shop sticker. Ohrt was a 30's/40's racer turned bicycle retailer to the stars; one of which could have bought this bike new.

More pictures can be found here. At this time, the wheels will be rebuilt to ride to shows and a pair of VO wheels will be perfect replacement for daily riding.

So the question remains: Should we repaint to its former glory, or should the patina and history be preserved?

22 November, 2012

Free Shipping on Orders Over $100

As we've done in past years, we're offering a free shipping deal during the holiday season. This offer started today and runs through January 1, 2013.

Here's the fine print:
  • The free shipping is offered only on retail orders shipped to the continental USA.
  • The order must be over $100.
  • Frames, complete bikes, and wheels are excluded due to their large size and, thus, higher shipping cost.

21 November, 2012

VO Closed over Thanksgiving

VO World Headquarters will be closed Thursday the 22nd for Thanksgiving and Friday the 23rd due to overconsumption of Thanksgiving goods. We will re-open Monday the 26th.

If you feel so inclined to participate in that other Thanksgiving pastime, shopping, you might be interested to know that new Grand Cru 50.4 Crankset MKII as well as our Drillium cranksets are in stock

Happy Thanksgiving. 

16 November, 2012

Velo Orange Campeur Frame and Fork: 1500 mile Review Ride Report

This is a review sent in by VO customer, accomplished randonneur, and former racer. It's reprinted here unedited and in it's entirety. Thanks Mike!

by Michael Ross

"...she was a no-nonsense little donkey of a bike, but
rode easy and straight, not a drop of bad manners."

– Alec Burney, recently hit by a car in Philly, noted long-distance bicyclist, sage, and sooth-sayer...

Let me jump right to the conclusion: I have ridden the Velo Orange Campeur bike about 1500 miles at this point, and without hesitation I can say that I have never been on a better bike.

I am lucky enough to live in Washington, DC, and have access to Velo Orange World Headquarters whenever I can ride myself out to Annapolis, Maryland. Much to the horror of VO Staff, I make the pilgrimage often. I was at VO about a month ago when the Campeur showed up.

(Digression for bicyclists who care about democracy and quality of life in the USA: I can't bear driving out to VO, as driving, at its best, is so often a regrettable, forgettable exercise in brute utility, as it surely does not engage any great joy, or aesthetic pleasure...much less economic or ecological responsibility. I'm not anti-car, although I am anti-totalitarian transportation, and the car culture – including its many unjustified subsidies – counts as totalitarian despite recent advances made to improve transport options. To date, bicycle advocacy nationwide has only achieved the low-hanging fruit of infrastructure change. The real battles over sane transportation are just beginning...)

I didn't need a new bike; and I am not a consumer. I don't need a “new” anything to make up for excitement lacking in other areas of my life. I'm over that – I'll be 50 in December.

But I kept looking at the frame and fork closely, and couldn't help but think this bike was an improvement. And the price is unbeatable. Yes, I've ridden some great bikes, including many customs, race bikes and touring rigs, made from aluminum, titanium, plastic, and fancy steel with fancier stickers. But the Campeur stood out.

Having now spent some quality time on the Campeur, I can defend the claim that there is no better bike. It does everything well. And it's value – the dollars it takes to purchase against what it can do over its useful life – is currently unmatched. Go match it up to the newer Raleighs, Jamis, Gunnar, Soma, Surly, Novara, Fuji, Kona, Trek, Salsa, Pashley, etc. – none are better priced, better made or perform better.

Depending on configuration, on which handlebars, wheels, shifters, crankset, cogs and derailer...it can carry you fast and long; or slow and steady, carrying a heavy load, front or rear. I've had heavy loads on both ends, on just the front end, and in large, fully loaded panniers in the rear. Frame geometry is not a subject for beginners, nor is “low-trail” philosophy, but if you are interested and informed you can look at the frame specifications and realize that this is an excellent, well chosen, set of compromises. The good news is frame geometry is not relevant at all if the bicycle performs well when ridden. Good frame geometry can be *felt* when ridden; it puts the rider at ease. The Campeur has not a drop of bad manners. Under any conditions. I hit 54mph in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania...and no wobble, no problems, no worries. The Campeur rides great, load or no-load, hands-on, or hands-free (at 30 mph it was totally comfortable riding no-hands.)

(Digression #2: A few years ago at age 47, I rode a 40K time trial in a few seconds under an hour on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I did borrow top-of-the-line Rolf Wheels...other than than it was the same bike I ride when touring, sans bags! It is not the bike frame, if well designed, that is at issue for speed. Grant Peterson of Rivendell has long harped on how the bicycle is the only machine whose weight is considered without the engine (that would be you). He is right to do so: the Campeur will be super fast if you're super fit and have lightweight components and tires.)

Some key Campeur points, in no privileged order:

*It looks good!! The tubes are narrow and elegant, although the down-tube is oversized. The gray paint job glimmers with small specks of color in the sun. The gray color is neutral enough that your color choice of bar tape, fenders, etc., will not clash with the frame. The paint itself is much higher quality that that seen on comparable bikes. The fork tips, rear dropouts, and fork crown are lugged; the head-tube and seat-tube have nice reinforcements – little details that look great (and are strong). The flat-crown fork and curving lower legs are a lyrical delight to look at! We live in era where the sheer volume and intensity of quotidian ugliness can lead a sensitive person to depression. Can you say Anywhere, USA? We spend our lives unavoidably in, or avoiding, such spaces. If you are going to use your bike as much as you should, you have to like looking at it. And it has to reward your looking at it by being interesting and elegant. Depreciate the aesthetic in this life at your own risk. Of course, the biggest compliment I can give VO is that they think beautiful form and extremely useful, long-lasting function are not enemies. Just look at their component and accessory choices. The Campeur is no exception.

*Relatedly, the geometry is such that there is no front wheel overlap with the pedals when making sharp turns, slowly, with the wheel turned at an acute angle. This may be amoot point out i the country, but in an urban environment sharp turns are sometimes necessary and unexpected, and no front wheel/pedal overlap is *good.*

*All of the sizes on the frame (BB, headset, seat-post, etc.) are standard! Hooray. You use your old (good) stuff. Or buy good new stuff, easily found.

*Note the low rack placement due to the on the correctly placed mounting eyelets! This is a necessity, not a luxury! It keeps the rack low, the load low, and maximizes the top-shelf use of the rear rack. You will be able to nicely mount the fenders to a variety of racks out there, especially VO constructeur-type racks.

*The rear hub takes a 135mm wheel easily. I use the VO cassette hub (bellisimo!). Say hello to easywheel changes. Say a big hello to a super strong, no-dish rear wheel, if you use an off-center rear rim; or a near dish-less rear wheel if you don't.

*There is a kick-stand plate. Yes! And long chainstays, so even big feet don't hit big rear panniers fully loaded.

*Big tires are easily fitted. I found I could fit 45mm tires easily with full fenders. [Chris' note: I think Mike has 40mm tires; will check]

*Fender attachments are threaded under the appropriate bridges at the bottom bracket, fork crown, and rear brake bridge. Yes! It makes the fender stronger, wobble less, and easier to mount and adjust for height. (As well as easier to silicone a wire on the inside if you use generator lights and use a wired tail-light. And you know you should...).

*The head tube is extended and reinforced. This is crucial. It takes away from the ugly look of a too-tall stem. And allows for a higher handlebar height, which is extremely important for comfort and control. Most folks ride bikes at least a size too small...

*There is a one-inch, “traditional” head-tube, for a “traditional” threaded stem. This is good. And the fork is *not* cut too-short, a common failing! Since VO makes the beautiful stem adapter for “thread-less” stems for threaded headsets, it affords lots of good options for the bar/stem interface. And, of course, I use the excellent and super long lasting VO cartridge headset...with split fork crown race....awesome...the headset rolls on and on like butt'ah.

(Digression #3: Is pencil use primarily for marking -- or for later erasure? Is the essential nature of fire to destroy and sterilize -- or to make a house warm and cozy as it crackles in the fireplace? Is the true nature of the acorn to grow into an oak tree? What if the acorn is picked up by a squirrel and stored for winter food? Did the squirrel mess with the Universe's Grand Plan? At the atomic level a bullet is mainly empty space...but if it's shot at you from the barrel of a gun, I'd duck. Is the bullet essentially hard, or hollow? Atom bombs, computers, and nuclear power depend on the latter theorization, however counterintuitive.
Add to these questions: Which is better -- the 1-inch threaded headset, or the 1 and 1/8 inch threadless? See my point? Leave your arrogance at home. The answer, here, across the board on all substantive matters of concern, even beyond bicycles, is: it depends...)

*The front fork has through-bolts for a low-rider front rack. Both ends of the bike have multiple rack eyelets. And a beautiful bolt-hole through the crown that is the right size. Put your headlight there...or a front rack to hold a handlebar bag.

*All the included bolts on the bike are stainless steel.

*Multiple full-sized pump placement possibilities. Do not take this lightly... (There is the traditional pump peg on the head-tube.)

*No squeal braking! The front fork has a flat crown...and I mention this as it may render the fork strong enough, resistant enough to flex, to render brake-use squeal-free. Maybe. Anyhow, what I do know is that unlike many competing brands of similarly tasked bicycles, this bike simply does not have any brake squeal, regardless of the pads used. I used three different kinds on the canilever brakes: salmon Kool Stops, black Shimanos, and black Swiss-stops. VO has wonderful noise-free brake pads which are a blessing if you have howling brakes (they do wear rims slightly faster, but nothing outrageous – about 7500 miles before the rim needs replacing), to gain a squeal-free ride...I have reviewed them in the past on the VO Blog.) The Campeur rides quietly even under extreme braking, front and rear, with standard, off-the-shelf, anybody-makes-em pads. HOOO-RAY!

*Customer Service matters! The folks at VO are nice. They are rational. They answer questions quickly. “I don't know” is part of their repertoire of responses. This is a strength, not a weakness. How refreshing in these days of know-it-all business enterprises. If you need help or if something goes awry you can count on them to help, not hinder. Contemporary life has enough headaches. Bureaucracy, not democracy, is what we all spend so much time navigating. It matters where you buy your bike, and bike stuff.

So: What are you waiting for? The Campeur is great bike and rides like a dream. Not like a donkey.

Reviewer background; or, who I think I am:

I am a completely biased reviewer of all things bicycle, at least when I get the chance to do so. I don't like stupid crap, especially if it's made to last one season or is over-priced. I do like progressive technological innovation. But so little stuff is progressive or innovative. Jobst Brandt is a straight-talking hero. I've been on the road for more than 25 years at this point, always averaging at least 10,000 miles a year, in many locations in the USA. I've traveled around a fair bit, and usually by bicycle. I raced on the road when younger, and was in some Pro/I/II races with Lance Armstrong, as I'm about 9 nine years older than him. I didn't use to mention this, but now that LA is a doper I finally admire him. Anyone who's ever had a beer to take the edge off, or had an aspirin, should do likewise. Although I must admit LA's palmares pales compared to Amish women who bicycle through the winter in skirts carrying groceries on mixtes. I dragged my child to school for many years on a bike...which must not have been so bad as she now has a boyfriend who works in a bike shop (I'm undecided on whether that's good or bad...I dislike 99 percent of bike shops. I'm not undecided on how much more I love her every day.) I like thinking about learning, education (which is much more than learning), biology (especially noncognitive evolutionary adaptation), the built environment, transportation, economic justice (or the lack of it), and high-fructose-corn-syrup addiction. I try to be involved in bike advocacy in my hometown of Washington, DC. I like destination rides to food, and noodling around urban environs with friends Ed and Mary, and buddy Lane. I have a beautiful, hot, big-brained, fun wife who tolerates me, and allows me to ride her around on a Da Vinci tandem. She also rides a Soma Saga, but that's only because the Campeur wasn't available at the time...

15 November, 2012

Les Sabots et le Beaujolais Nouveau Sont Arrives

It's a joyous day at Velo Orange. The long awaited Sabot pedals have arrived. And the 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau was released today. Both are currently being admired here at VO world headquarters.
First the pedals. You can find my original description of them here. And this recent post describes Igor and Adrian's long term test. In short, we are very proud of these pedals. A great vintage that will age well.
Now for the Beaujolais Nouveau. As you may know, French law prohibits new batches of the light-bodied and fruity wine, made from Gamay grapes, from being served until the third Thursday in November. That is today! This wine is only a few weeks old and is not a "fine wine." It is an inexpensive and quaffable bistro style wine, a fun drink that can be enjoyed by anyone to celebrate the harvest. It's meant to be consumed in copious quantities in the first full year of its life. The 2012 harvest was very poor with small grapes due to lousy spring weather, but that just makes the wine a bit more concentrated. If you decide to indulge I would look for some from a small vineyard, rather than the ubiquitous and industrial Georges Duboeuf. Cost is around $10 a bottle.

We'll be examining other favorite fall beverages in future posts. What's your's?

14 November, 2012

Coffeeneuring in Maryland

By Scott

This past weekend was lining up to be one of the best weather wise here in the mid Atlantic for a while. My riding buddy, Charlie Thomas, was at the end of his coffeeneuring challenge- hit 7 different coffee shops over 6 weekends.

Mary G, DC randonneur and VO customer, came up with this challenge last year after PBP.

Basically, coffeeneuring is an excuse to ride your bike to a coffee shop. For the challenge, you need to ride at least 1 mile from the start to the coffee shop, but there is no maximum distance to a shop. The rides have to be done on a weekend to count towards the challenge and have to be done between October 1 and November 11th. You have to hit 7 different coffee shops, so variety is key. For randonneurs looking for an off season challenge, this gives us some leeway in terms of places to ride.

Charlie and I went coffeeneuring two weekends ago out of Arlington VA and this past weekend we hit my side of the river for a ride from South Germantown Recreation Park to Brunswick MD. Western Montgomery county and Fredrick county still had some remaining leaves on the trees and with temperatures to be in the 60's by mid day, it was too good to give up.

Our goal for the day was Beans in the Belfry, a coffee shop in Brunswick Md located in an old church and our route was a mix of small lane ways and minor roads going northwest to Brunswick through Point of Rocks. The quiet roads were hilly with the orange and red remains of leaves scattered to the side of the road.

Upon reaching Point of Rocks, we decided to try taking the C & O canal path from there north to Brunswick. The canal path was in pretty good shape so my 25mm wide tires and Charlies 28mm wide tires had no problems. The biggest issue was the carpet of leaves made telling where the berm in the middle of the path lay difficult. Surprising, considering the beautiful weather, we didn't see a lot of folks out riding, either on the canal path or on the lane ways.

The shop was busy with the lunch crowd when we arrived and I ordered a coke and 7 layer bar for me (I wasn't coffeeneuring, so a cool coke was well deserved) and Charlie ordered his coffee and slice of pecan pie. We took the obligatory shot of the coffee cup, nicely lit up by the midday fall light coming through the stained glass windows.

Heading back to our start point, we opted for the roller coaster Point of Rocks road to head over
the southern Catoctin mountains back to the more gentle pasture land of western Montgomery county. Charlie enjoyed the full range of his triple gearing on this section, while I used my weight to muscle myself and my compact double gearing over the hills.

Back in Montgomery county, we stopped at the store in Dickerson to fill up our water bottles as they had mysteriously been depleted on the way south. Here we met one of only a few other road riders on the day.

The rest of the ride back to our cars was beautifully uneventful, arriving back to a parking lot that had been empty when we started, to find it filled with people enjoying the afternoon.

While having a challenge is nice, spending time having a coffee with friends after, before or during a ride is always a worthy goal.

13 November, 2012

Photo Day

Not much to write about today so here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few photos taken around Annapolis These are all within 3 mile of our shop.

VO Polyvalent in historic Annapolis
Casey strummin' on the waterfront
Horse farm with Campeur
Polyvalent Porteur with prototype basket at local park
Pass Hunter in the weeds
Park path

09 November, 2012

Sabot Long Term Test

By Igor and Adrian

Adrian and I have ridden the Sabot Pedals through the summer and fall in flip-flops, FiveFingers, minimal running shoes, boots, and leather dress shoes. I’ve used them on my commuting bike, fixed gear, and singlespeed mountain bike.  They’ve been rained on, gotten muddy, stepped in poo on, and washed clean.  They have taken the abuse and loved it.

Adrian is an all year round flip flop/FiveFinger wearer who has used various platforms over the years and has had the same complaint for each set: the cutouts in the platform are too big and create painful pressure points during long rides. After riding for a couple days Adrian said, "These Sabots are a godsend". The combination of a large platforms and geometric cutouts eliminate pressure points.  The removable/replaceable pins allow for consistent grip in all weather conditions but are not uncomfortable for soft and/or thin soled shoes.

These pedals have been designed to do anything, go everywhere. The performance is great, even during long climbs on my singlespeed mountain bike. The ability to swap out the pins for more aggressive ones is a great feature for muddy conditions where serious grip is needed. 

On my fixed gear, I installed toe clips for foot retention and monster skids ensued. In addition to a standard toe clip or half clip, they also accept foot retention like these from Hold Fast or Power Grips.

The inside of the pedal body features a Cr-Mo axle mated to 3 high-end sealed cartridge bearings (2 inboard, 1 outboard) to be super smooth and take a beating. Today they still feel brand new.

These pedals just beg you to go out and ride your bike.

Stay tuned, these will be out within 2 weeks.

07 November, 2012

Foil + Water = Shiny

by Igor

A customer came in the other day and mentioned how he cleaned up his 30+ year old handlebars to the point of looking like new just with aluminum foil and water. So in the spirit of Arts and Crafts, I had to give it a try. Conveniently, there was a pie plate kicking around from when Heidi rebuilt her son’s bike. Here goes nothing.

Before, notice the lovely rust spots:

Take some aluminum foil, in my case from breakfast; dampen the item and foil with water and take some aggression out on it.  The water will start to turn a bit black; just wipe away as you go.

Pat and dry, grab your Simichrome, paper towels, and apply sparingly.

Clean up with a fresh paper towel or cloth. Looks great already, only after a few minutes of work.


Surface rust is gone, the Simichrome gave it a nice shine, and only took 5 minutes.  This trick is on par with learning that your windows will be streak free if you use newspapers rather than paper towels.

Do any of you have other bike restoration tricks that we should know about?

05 November, 2012


A few notes:

A lot of you you have been waiting for the Sabot pedals. They should arrive next week.

The Grand Cru Drillium Cranks will also arrive next week. Both the inner and outer chain rings are drilled on the production version.

Our late October container has been delayed until early December. This is due to a couple of factories being so busy that they couldn't complete production in time. Most other items that are out of stock will arrive then.

Pass Hunter prototypes are being built. This is basically the Rando frame without lugs, but with canti brakes. We're testing it with slightly lighter tubing than we would normally use. The big question is whether it should be blood red (since red bikes are known to be faster) or medium blue of about the same shade as this Motobecane? (BTW, that was my frame that I sold to Kyle, then bought back because Kyle did such a terrific build.)